Friday, September 19th, 2014

Walk-O-Meter

Require annual audits of fish and wildlife accounts

Will "require increased transparency and accountability by requiring annual audits of our fish and wildlife accounts to ensure that we are prioritizing expenditures an getting maximum value for our sportsmen and women."


Updates

Two reviews out of dozens of areas

During his 2010 campaign for governor, Scott Walker said he wanted to ensure the state was "prioritizing expenditures and getting maximum value for our sportsmen and women."

His pledge: To require annual audits of the state's fish and wildlife account -- money dedicated to support fishing and hunting.

In October 2012, Walker announced the first in a series of annual audits was complete.

That review was done on one part of the fish and wildlife account, the Department of Natural Resources-run Waterfowl Stamp Program. The program has generated some $14 million to support the hunting of ducks and geese since 1978.

The review -- not an audit, per se -- found find that revenue from the sale of waterfowl stamps "appeared to be stated accurately"; and disbursements of the funds "appeared to be in accordance" with state law, the firm said.

When we last checked on this promise, in September 2013, we rated it Stalled.

Since then, a review was done on the pheasant stamp program. The findings were similar to those in the waterfowl stamp review.

But the two reviews are only incremental progress toward meeting the promise Walker made of a series of audits being done on an annual basis. There are several dozen types of resident and out-of-state hunting and fishing licenses and stamps sold by the state.

With less than four months left in his term, we rate this a Promise Broken.

Sources:

Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Laurel Patrick, Sept. 3, 2014

Walker's office points to one look at one account

During his 2010 campaign for governor, Scott Walker said he wanted to ensure the state was "prioritizing expenditures and getting maximum value for our sportsmen and women."

His pledge: To require annual audits of the state's fish and wildlife account -- money dedicated to support fishing and hunting.

Let's see what's transpired.

The state's nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau last reviewed fish and wildlife funding in June 2006. That 46-page report noted that "for a number of years, some hunters and anglers have raised concerns about the extent to which the fees they pay are spent on activities related to hunting and fishing.” It found that 97.6 percent of expenditures funded by user fees provided some level of benefit to hunters and anglers. Activities included habitat development.

We'll note that the audit bureau referred to that report as an "evaluation,” and that the bureau, lawmakers and others in government often refer to audits, evaluations and similar terms interchangeably.

In October 2012, Walker announced he had kept a campaign promise related to fish and wildlife audits, saying the first in a series of annual audits was complete.

That review was done on one part of the fish and wildlife account, the Department of Natural Resources-run Waterfowl Stamp Program. It has generated some $14 million to support the hunting of ducks and geese since 1978.

Waterfowl hunters, as well as stamp collectors, pay $7 for a stamp; in 2012, more than 55,000 of the stamps were sold.

Under state law, two-thirds of the money generated is for wetland development and management, as well as for development of waterfowl and related species. The other one-third is to develop waterfowl propagation areas in Canada that provide waterfowl that end up in Wisconsin. Wisconsin state agencies and non-profit organizations get the money.

For a number of years, according to Don Kirby, executive director of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, duck and geese hunters worried about money generated by the state Waterfowl Stamp Program. The concern wasn't so much that money was being diverted from promoting waterfowl hunting, but that a surplus had developed and there was talk around the Capitol about tapping the funds for other purposes, he told us.

When the governor announced he had kept his promise, he said Madison-based Wegner CPAs found the DNR was collecting, reporting and spending money from the Waterfowl Stamp Program appropriately.

The firm stated in its three-page July 2012 report that its work, which examined the stamp program for a one-year period ending June 30, 2011, was not an audit in pure accounting terms. The objective of an audit, the firm said, "would be the expression of an opinion on the specified program elements, accounts or requirements."

But the review did find that revenue from the sale of waterfowl stamps "appeared to be stated accurately"; and disbursements of the funds "appeared to be in accordance" with state law, the firm said.

According to Walker's announcement, projects funded by the program during the one-year period included dike repairs in the Meadow Valley Wildlife Area in Juneau County and in the Germania Wildlife Area in Marquette County; wetland restoration in Fond du Lac, Outagamie and Rock counties; and an ongoing project aimed at eliminating invasive cattails in the Horicon Marsh in Dodge County.

But that was the only audit cited by Walker's office. There are several dozen types of resident and out-of-state hunting and fishing licenses and stamps sold by the state.

Our rating

Walker promised to require annual audits of the state's fish and wildlife accounts.

The first in what Walker pledged would be a series of reviews has been done. But more than halfway into his term, that's it.

We rate this promise as Stalled.

Sources:

Gov. Scott Walker, news release, Oct. 8, 2012

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Waterfowl Stamp Program accountants report, July 20, 2012

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, "History of the waterfowl stamp,” Aug. 27, 2013

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, "Fish and Wildlife Account Major Expenditure Items,” May 15, 2013

Interview, Wisconsin Waterfowl Association executive director Don Kirby, Sept. 19, 2013 works to conserve the state"s waterfowl and wetland resources

Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Tom Evenson, Sept. 17, 2013

Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau, "An evaluation -- fish and wildlife funding,” June 2006